RIP Google Health

The San Francisco office uses a Google Health/Health 2.0 lanyard to turn on our lights. We have no plans of taking it down.

The rumors had been around for a while but the news still stings. Today, the Official Google Blog announced the retirement of Google Health. The blog reads: “While (it) didn’t scale as we had hoped, we believe (Google Health) did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult.”

The project hit a sweet spot with tech-savvy patients, plugged in caregivers and, more recently, fitness and wellness enthusiasts.  But affecting the daily health routines of millions of people is no easy task. Despite Google Health’s success with these empowered patient populations, they struggled to scale to widespread adoption.

According to the announcement, Google Health will continue to operate the site as usual through January 1, 2012, and has provided an ongoing way for people to download their health data for an additional year beyond that, through January 1, 2013. Any data that remains in Google Health after that point will be permanently deleted. Although deletion is never pleasant, Google Health is bowing out in the most professional way possible.

Health 2.0 applauds how easy Google Health has made it for it’s existing customers to download their data. Similar to the Blue Button, you can print it, save it, transfer it or port your data to any other services that support industry-standard formats. Over the coming weeks they’ll also be adding the ability to directly transfer your health data to other services that support the Direct Project protocol, an emerging open standard for efficient health data exchange. Currently available formats include:

  • Printable PDF including all the records in your Google Health profile
  • Industry-standard Continuity of Care Record (CCR) XML that can be imported into other personal health tools such as Microsoft® HealthVault™
  • Comma-separated value (CSV) files that can be imported into spreadsheets and database programs for ongoing tracking and graphing
  • HTML and XML versions of the original “data notices” sent to your Google Health profile by linked data providers
  • A unified ZIP archive that includes all files you’ve uploaded to your profile, plus all of the formats above

We’ll see who picks up the slack in the PHR market. Some of Google Health’s population was using the product as a data utility layer to combine information from multiple in home devices or remotely monitor loved ones. Products exist to meet a handful of these needs (see GravityEight or RunKeeper) but it’s not known which brand(s) patients will turn to or if a new competitor will step forward. It’s also unknown whether Microsoft Health Vault or current EHR vendors will support patient participation in the same way Google Health had. Health 2.0 co-chairman, Matthew Holt, suggested that Google shouldn’t retire the program but should, instead, flip it into an open source group – perhaps featuring it at the upcoming OSCON.

One of the final lines in the post touches upon the most important idea behind the Google Health Project. “In the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care.”

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